Meteorological history

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Post by Mr007 on Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:46 pm

Meteorological history

Tropical cyclone Mahina hit on 4 March 1899. It was a Category 5 cyclone, the most powerful of the tropical cyclone severity categories. In addition, Mahina was perhaps one of the most intense cyclones ever observed in the Southern Hemisphere and almost certainly the most intense cyclone ever observed off the East Coast of Australia in recorded history. Mahina was named by Government Meteorologist for Queensland Clement Wragge, a pioneer of naming such storms.

Contemporary reports vary considerably in the reported lowest barometric pressures. The pressure recorded on the schooner Olive are reasonably consistent in showing the lowest pressure recorded on her: 29.60 to 29.10 [4] or between 29.00 and 29.10 inches [5] A further variant was "during the lull in the hurricane the barometer on the Olive recorded 29.70 to 29.10" (no units are given). [6]

Most sources record the schooner Crest of the Wave observation as 27 inches. e.g.[7][8] Another reports 26 inches.[9] More modern reports of a 18 inch observation on a vessel in the eye of Mahina seem to have no relationship to contemporary records. [10]

Whittingham [11] has accepted the 29.1 and 27 inches reports from the Olive and the Crest of the Wave respectively seemingly unaware of the discrepant reports. He has estimated the track of the cyclone from the damage reports, placing it directly over the position of the Crest of the Wave. The Olive was to the north and missed the centre. A pressure there of 29.1 is consistent with that of the Crest of the Wave of 27 given the separation. He calculates the centre pressure, standardised for temperature, as 914 mb (hPa).[11]

In comparison tropical cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin in 1974 had a central pressure of 950 hPa. Barometric pressure this low at mean sea level is also a likely cause and strong indicator of why cyclone Mahina created such an intense, phenomenal and claimed world record height storm surge of the likes not seen since.
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